After departing Dag’s Inn the party spent the morning continuing their journey north towards King’s Landing. Along the way they passed numerous townsfolk, merchants, and men-at-arms all heading the same direction in hopes to earn their own coin and glory in the massive gathering for the grand tourney. Smiles were wide and spirits were high, until the Murrayn/Martoyk group ambled past. With each person the group passed they encountered sour looks, mothers fretting shielding their children, and men carefully covering their weapons with their hands until the party had moved far enough away.
The accumulated negativity cause each person in the group to remark amongst themselves, but around midday the crowds seemed to thin and the group had a brief respite from the surly travelers. It was around that same time though that the characters spotted three knights in full livery approaching them from the opposite direction down the road. The knights each wore full plate and rich scarlet cloaks, but were helmless. As their faces came into view it was apparent that each of the three were very young and had similar characteristics, with dark hair and sharp noses. The knight to the left of the lead carried a large yelllow banner with a crowned prancing stag stag change on it. The knight to the right of the lead carried a smaller banner, split diagonally in red and white with a black snarling boards head as the charge.
As soon as the three knights were within ear shot of the group they began taunting and insulting the party, much to the disdain of the quick lipped Lord Cynric Martoyk, who gave out as much as the group took. As things began to escalate, the lead knight named himself Ser Ronald Hogg, and named the other two knights as his cousins Donwald and Spendren. Ronald told the party he’d always knew that House Murrayn lacked honor, but was surprised to see a craven streak in them as well for their “attack on unarmed men, women, and children”. Oswain quickly came to the realization that these knights must have come into contact with Ser Wyntyr Wendwater, who had been spreading false tales of the Murrayns alleged attack on a Wendwater farmstead. Maester Lhoomar informed the group that they had recently attended a wedding and tourney where a relation to Ronald, Ser Etan Hogg, had been slain under a tangled set of circumstances, which would explain the knights’ disposition towards the party even before contact with Wyntyr.
Oswain had started to launch into the full story behind Ser Etan’s demise when Donwald, goaded by Ronald and Spendren, spit in Cynric’s face and called them murderers directly. Cynric, as was his custom in a fight, dismounted and challenged them all to fight him on foot, out from under their horses. Karl Grheyson drew his sword and cracked Donwald across the face with his hilt, causing the boys nose to become a red mess of blood and streaming tears. The three knights quickly changed their tone and all squealed that “as messengers and emissaries of the king they could not be treated so”. Seeing an opening Oswain spoke calmly of his dealings with Ser Etan, claiming him to be “a gentle man and a great fighter who lost his life much too soon- swept away in the clashing torrent of two houses disputes with each other, and a passion that ultimately betrayed him”. The knights of House Hogg understood, and on a sullen but understanding note left the party in peace as they proceeded down the road about their business.
By nightfall the group found themselves under the sign of an inn that was made of sturdy fabric and bore an elaborately painted stag’s head with sprawling antlers. No doubt this was Inn of the Great Stag that Meg Moleskin had spoken of when they had departed her establishment that morning. This inn however was larger and much better appointed that Dag’s, but equally as full of customers from the road. Upon stepping inside the party distressingly received the same cold reception and angry glares that they had endured from everywhere they had traveled so far. An attractive lady quickly set aside a plate of food and drink she was serving to a patron and glided across the room towards the party. With a confident smile she introduced herself as Marta Taverner, the innkeeper, and welcomed them to The Great Stag. She quickly informed them, with a tone that left no room for debate, that rooms were scarce but she two available to the party for the price of a full silver stag for each of them!
Having been through this charade already a day ago, Oswain stepped forward and with a resounding voice announced that the price was fine and furthermore he was buying a round of ale for the whole building. The jovial tone quickly returned to the taproom and everyone went back to their food and drink. Merik, Oswain, Lhoomar, and Karl headed towards the bar to claim their drinks, but Marta occupied Cynric. After exchanging a few pleasantries she commented on the stag’s head sword the Cynric still bore asking him if it was of the Baratheons. She explained of her undying loyalty to the King, greater than any of his bannermen, as her fealty was paid in blood. She relayed the story of how her husband Sten had forecast greatness in Robert even before he won the crown. He died fighting in Robert’s army in the decisive Battle of Trident, and saw the future king slay Rhaegar before becoming lost in the battle himself.
Marta then changed the subject back to Cynric, asking if he would be kind enough to handle and unruly customer who was treating of “her girls” Elsie roughly and causing unwanted commotion. Cynric agreed and quickly crossed the large taproom to a small cordoned off area where he saw a large man roughly holding a girl who was struggling to get away. Cynric greeted the man and sat down at the table without waiting for an invitation. The man had a short mane of the thickly curled blond hair that was slowly receding back from his scalp. His eyes were red and bloodshot, and several days worth of stubble were on his face. The man had a gut the hung out over his belt and added to an already large age. Cynric sensed the man was probably in his early 30’s but his appearance looked like he was towards the end of middle age. Cynric attempted to politely request that the man release the woman but he refused. As the things got heated quickly, and Cynric did not want to disturb the tenuous peace purchased by Oswain’s generosity with violence, he quickly retreated and solicited that Oswain deal with the matter.
Oswain approached the troubled table as abruptly as Cynric, but offered to buy the man another drink, which caught the man off guard. Hamish Flowers introduced himself, and found amusement in the fact that one of the few times he could enjoy a drink for free and a lord’s expense was when he actually had his own money to spend. After talking for a few minutes, Elsie the barmaid trapped in Hamish’s grasp, found a way to break free and quickly jutted away from the table. The man seemed to take no notice, though, as he was absorbed in drinking at a rapid pace, and talking with Oswain intermittently.
After initially regaling Oswain with a tale of how he single-handedly slew a gang of bandits to earn his new found gold as a reward from “some lord or other”, Hamish shifted his mood into a near wailing sorrow claiming that he would not be long for the world. After some prodding Hamish revealed that he was the sole survivor of a band of mercenaries recruited by a man he only knew as the Fox Knight, to slay an unarmed farmstead on Wendwater land. Hamish said he witnessed the Fox Knight place a shield bearing the House Murrayn sigil after all the farmers had been slaughtered. Later the Fox Knight convinced Hamish to ambush all the other mercenaries that helped them in the slaughter on the farm, in order to slip the payment money between just the two of them. After Hamish had done so the Fox Knight never again appeared to him, and with only a small percentage of the payment money in hand Hamish was trying to stick with the crowds heading to King’s Landing before the Fox Knight could kill Hamish himself for what he knew. Hamish closed his tale by theorizing that the man who hired the Fox Knight was most likely none other than Ser Wyntyr Wendwater himself. Wendwater had been seen hours earlier at this very inn telling all with ears of the “callous attack perpetrated by the vile Murrayn’s”. It was an oddly indirect way for a knight to react to a seemingly obvious attack on his land and people.
After a few more wailing refrains from the self-described “poor old Hams”, Oswain offered to protect Hamish in return for his testimony in front of the King’s court attesting to the innocence of the Murrayn’s in the slaughter of the Wendwater farmstead. Hamish agreed, and before the now well drunken man could do anymore to endanger himself the party escorted him to his room for the night. For added insurance Cynric took it upon himself to stand watch at the door to the room Hamish was staying in all night.